A 74-year-old man has been discovered alive five days after his senior living apartment complex in Washington, DC, caught fire — but nobody knew he was missing.
“The resident was found by crews hired by the building owners to evaluate the safety of the structure,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference Monday.
The man was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening, Bowser said.
Structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer said crews were going from unit to unit Monday so they could determine whether fire inspectors could safely enter the building. They weren’t able to get into every unit, and sometimes had to pry open the doors, he said.
“That’s when we found this gentleman, who answered when we were making noise at his door,” he said.
“He had a sense of humor,” Kilsheimer told reporters. “When I said, ‘We’re coming to get you,’ he said, ‘I’m not going any place.'”
The fire broke out at the Arthur Capper Senior Housing Center on September 19 — last Wednesday..
At the time, officials with DC Fire and EMS said in a news release they had rescued more than 100 residents, and it was believed everyone had been accounted for.
DC officials had turned to the building’s management to check lists of residents and determine if all the tenants were safe, Bowser said.
“Initially, the management company confirmed that everyone on the list was accounted for,” an official from Bowser’s office explained. “Today, they acknowledged that they had not laid eyes on him, personally, although they had the other people who they checked off on their list.”
The building’s owners have been asked to check again for anybody else, Bowser said. The search has been turned over to DC Fire, EMS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, she said.
There were 161 occupied units in the complex, Bowser told reporters. The “vast majority” of those residents have sought help getting placed in transitional hotels.
But there’s another group of residents of less than 30 people who are believed to be staying with family or friends.
“We are rechecking to assure that they are accounted for,” she said.
Kilsheimer said the fire department is using canines to check each building unit again.